Two American brothers and their tractor

Nope, it’s not a Farmall Cub. Looks like one from a distance, but it’s not. This little fella is an Ohio-built tractor called the Leader Model D! I think they’re neat. Maybe not because of the tractor itself (although they were good quality), but more because of the lesson they can teach. More on that in a minute...

The Leader Model D is one of dozens of different 30(ish)-hp. farm tractors built in the 1940s. This one goes home to a new owner on March 17, 2021!

See the details on this tractor.

Lewis and Walter Brockway started the Leader Tractor Company in their hometown of Auburn, Ohio, in 1939 building garden tractors and the like. A year or so later they started building "bigger" tractors using Chevy power and driveline components. The response was pretty good. The tractors were well-bult, high-quality machines and they sold well.

Early Brockway Leader tractor
Dave Mowitz

This is an early version of the Brockway brothers invention that would lead to the creation of the Leader tractor.

After a few years, they moved a couple of miles northwest of Auburn to the bustling metropolis of Chagrin Falls. They did this mainly because that town had a post office and Auburn did not. They weren’t getting checks and business inquiry letters; that’s a problem when you’re trying to grow a business!

Eventually (I believe in 1944-45), the supply of Chevy power dwindled – likely because of the war. Consequently, the Brockway brothers changed over to Hercules powerplants because they were:

A: Available.

B: Fairly similar to the Chevy.

The Model D got a 31-hp. Model IXB gas four-cylinder that did a pretty good job. A great many other tractors of the era used similar motors with predictably good results, so it made good sense.

A lesson learned the hard way...

Unfortunately, Walter & Lewis Brockway made a pretty fatal mistake in 1946 when they entered into a loan contract with Walter Schott, their marketing partner, so they could expand.

They didn’t read the fine print.

Buried in the contract was a pay-on-demand clause. Ultimately, this was the company’s downfall: In 1948, Schott exercised that clause in a hostile takeover move, and when the Brockways couldn’t pay up, they had to forfeit the company. What was worse was that Walter Schott’s company sold cars. They had no idea how to run a manufacturing company! They completely shuttered the doors two years later!

What’s the lesson that this little tractor can teach us?

ALWAYS READ THE FINE PRINT. (And don’t start a company in a town where there’s no post office.)

About this particular Leader Model D...

This 1948 Leader Model D was part of Ron Hayworth’s tractor collection for the better part of two decades. Ron was a farmer for most of his life up in Woodbury County, Iowa, over near Sioux City. He passed away going on about five years ago now, and this Leader tractor is among the last few left in his collection.

Austin Popken and the good folks at Brock Auction Co are handling this auction for Ron’s wife Jerane, and bidding wraps up next Wednesday, March 17, 2021.

Leader tractor up for sale at auction

All it needs is a battery and a driver! Sells on March 17, 2021!

Earl Ellsworth, a close family friend for many years, worked on the tractors in Ron’s collection with him. I talked to him for a few minutes this morning and he told me that for many years, the Leader Model D served very faithfully on parade and tractor ride duty. About 10 or so years ago, Earl & Ron tore the tractor completely apart and restored it to the condition you see it in today. It was at that point that the tractor was also repainted in that black cherry color – the color of Ron’s favorite shirt at the time! So, while it’s not the traditional tomato-red of other Leader tractors, it’s got a good story behind it!

Logo on front of Leader tractor

Here is what the factory-correct shade of red looks like for the Leader Model D. This particular one is the second Model D built according to the serial number, and it sold for just under $4,000 at a Mecum Gone Farmin’​Auction in the fall of 2019! (Click the photo for Mecum’​s archived listing.)

Earl told me that the only things the tractor needs to be perfectly functional is a new battery and a driver. It runs great, it doesn’t smoke or leak, and the rubber is nearly brand-new!

Whatll it sell for?

Leader tractors are in a pretty unique spot in the collector’s market these days. They’re fairly uncommon, they’re not hard to work on (and many replacement parts are fairly easy to source), yet they remain relatively affordable! When Walter Schott shuttered the company in 1950, they destroyed the production records, so nobody really knows how many Leader tractors were built. This probably contributes to the affordability factor.

I’d imagine that when the bidding wraps up, this one will go for somewhere around $3,000. Not bad for a nicely-restored, fairly uncommon tractor that runs like a top! It would be a great addition to a collection!

See the details on this tractor.

Brockway 49G restored tractor
Dave Mowitz

When Walter Schott shuttered the company in 1950, this did not signal the end of the Brockway brother’ interest in manufacturing tractors. Lewis and Walter Brockway decided to start over by buying the Intercity Foundry Building in April 1949. The brothers came back building a greatly improved tractor called Brockway identified as being located in Chagrin Falls and Bedford, Ohio. The most common of these tractors, the Model 49G, employed a Continental F 162 gasoline engine. The Brockway Model 49D used a Continental GD 157 diesel engine. Although the Brockway Farm Tractor was in production for 10 years, fewer than 500 units were built and production ceased in 1959.

Ryan Roossinck

Hi! I’m Ryan, and I love tractors. It doesn’t matter if it’s a showpiece, an oddball, or seen its share of life ... if it’s unique and it’s listed by one of our auctioneer partners at Tractor Zoom, I’m going to show it off a little bit! This equipment is all up for auction RIGHT NOW so you can bid on them! I think they’re cool, and I hope you will, too. This is Interesting Iron!

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